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Nongqawuse (right) with fellow prophetess, Nonkosi

Biographical information

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Gxarha River

More than a hundred years ago a Xhosa girl called Nongqawuse's was born near the Gxarha River. She was an orphan, brought up by her uncle Mhlakaza. Nongqawuse's people had many problems. They waged wars with the British government in the Cape Colony, who wanted to rule over the Xhosa and their land. The wars killed many of the Xhosa and their cattle. Then, to make things worse, their cattle became sick. They caught a lung disease from a herd of cattle that White settlers brought from Europe. Their grain was also infected with a disease that killed the maize before it was ripe. The Xhosa believed that these diseases were ubuthi, or evil, caused by witchcraft. They also blamed the White settlers for their problems, because they took their land and tried to destroy their traditions and beliefs.

Last updated : 21-Sep-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011